Trump impeached after inciting insurrection
It’s his second impeachment
As I watched an American insurrection taking place live on my phone during the afternoon of January 6, I recalled a thought of mine from over four years prior. On that day, November 8, 2016, I remember thinking, or rather knowing, that if Donald Trump lost the election, his mob of political cultists were destined to react violently no matter what. Four years later, in the back of my subconscious, I could hear a tiny, smug, know-it-all voice saying, “I fucking called it.” Although the coup attempt, if you can call it that – the group had no clear demands or coherent plan – failed in the moment and the House voted to impeach Trump as a result, the Red-Hat Revolt, or The Caucasian Coup if you prefer, will continue to reverberate through American politics for a long time.
Just last year, Donald J. Trump and his legal team sat in front of a Republican held Senate and weathered the third impeachment trial in American history (Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton were both impeached and then acquitted in the subsequent Senate trial. Richard Nixon resigned before articles of impeachment could be voted on and he could be tried). The charges were laid out by Justice Department prosecutors and testimonies from Trump’s staff, the evidence presented showed a clear picture of Trump’s criminality when he attempted to pressure Ukraine’s President to dig up dirt on Hunter Biden’s former business dealings. The charges against him were clear and thorough, the defence was inept and incapable of objectively proving the President’s innocence, and the Senate ruled 51-49 not guilty, with only one Republican, Senator Mitt Romney, breaking party lines on one of the two charges. The outcome was no surprise to anyone paying attention to recent American politics, and the trial only served to reiterate the steep chasm between the GOP and ethical standards.
Almost exactly a year later, however, the circumstances of Trump’s impeachment are entirely different. For one, the charges laid out by Congress, i.e. that the President (and his family) willfully and knowingly fomented an insurrection against the American government during a political rally, are about as transparent and damning as they can possibly be. Unlike a cascade of backdoor dealings hinging on a few witness testimonies, the events were recorded live and televised internationally, they took place publicly in broad daylight, and nearly every person in government witnessed them firsthand. In legal terms, it’s equivalent to me robbing Taylor Swift at gun point onstage during Lollapalooza in front of 100,000 people while I repeat my name and address into the microphone (Editor’s note: these are not legal terms).
Adding to the enormous amount of evidence and lack of viable defense strategy thus far, Trump’s stranglehold on the GOP is much weaker than it has ever been. During the vote in Congress, 10 (predominantly moderate) Republican Representatives joined all 222 Democrat Reps. and voted in favour of impeachment, setting a record high for bipartisanship regarding impeachment proceedings, a feat made even more impressive if one examines Presidents Nixon and Johnson’s respective impeachments. As well, Senate Leader Mitch McConnell, who has unflinchingly supported Trump’s administration for the entirety of his term, remains statedly undecided on whether to encourage/order his fellow Republicans to vote either way, a fact which alone bodes well for the prosecution. Adding to this, a considerable number of staunch Republicans within the Senate, including Sen. Lindsey Graham, have since abandoned supporting Trump since the revolt. While no Republican Senators have given explicit statements favouring impeachment, the mere existence of such silence seems to suggest that a 2/3‘s majority vote, the ratio required to criminally convict a sitting President, may be possible for the first time.
The most critical difference, however, is timing. Trump’s presidency is less than a week from ending, and when he is finally gone, there will certainly be far less political or public benefits to uncritically supporting his leadership. Some moderate Republicans have already abandoned Trump since losing the Presidential race, and after losing both Georgia Senatorial races a gradual number within the GOP have begun to realize the full extent of their rapidly dwindling public support. Barring a second Trump presidential run, there is little practical gain left in remaining by the President’s side while a wealth of positive PR could be had in voting for Trump’s conviction. Politicians, especially those closer to centre, will always follow where public support leads. Remember, the overwhelming majority of Republican leaders were outspoken critics of Trump prior to his ascension, after which nearly all changed their tune and became his strongest supporters.
Now, having said all of this, I, and many political analysts, cannot say with confidence that a conviction is likely. There remains a considerable number of Red-Hat Rebels (alt-right Conservatives easily identified by their MAGA hats, pathological stubbornness, bigoted anger/self-righteousness, and, chiefly, their absolute ineptitude) within both the party and general public, and it’s unlikely that a majority of Republicans will risk splitting their support base over a matter of ethics. As well, both the federal government and American public remain bitterly polarized along party lines, and recent polls of public opinion have shown only minor changes in Conservative attitudes following the revolt. One Washington Post ABC Poll even found that 78 per cent of Republicans believe that the President bore no responsibility for any events on January 6.
While Trump’s impeachment, as justified as it is, is distressingly improbable, there does exist a strong silver lining. If Trump is not convicted on any charges laid out against him, the Senate can still vote whether to bar Trump from ever running for public office in the future. Not only would this eliminate the threat of a 2016 repeat and strip him of most post-office benefits, including a substantial pension, the vote would only require a simple majority to pass, and with the Democrats poised to regain control of the Senate on January 20, this outcome is almost a certainty (this would not bar his family from running or overturn his Presidential pardons, however).
Trump’s second impeachment will be a test of American democracy, much like the Civil War, which started, almost down to the day, 160 years prior. For anyone still on the fence, whether politician, American, or simple observer, I ask you to consider this anecdote. One of the most-widespread and famous photos from the revolt shows a lone man flying the Confederate Army of Virginia’s battle-flag, a flag which unequivocally represents violent insurrection, the preservation of slavery and white supremacy, and, above-all, the principle of might makes right. To put this into historical perspective, the Confederacy spent 300,000 lives in the same attempt, while the United States lost 360,000 more preventing the Confederate flag from ever entering the most sacred monuments to its democracy. In the end, all these years later, all it took was one speech, a mob, five deaths, and an informally divided nation, to usher this disgraceful image into the realm of reality.